Thailand has found it necessary to postpone until November the previously planned reopening of Bangkok and a few other major tourist areas to international travelers.
As late as early September, the Thai government planned to open its capital and a few other key destinations, namely Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, to foreign tourists on October 1 as part of a special program.
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But, the nation did not meet the planned vaccination targets. “The cities we have targeted have not reached 70% vaccination rates so we have to push the date back to November,” Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters on Wednesday. . For example, only 44% of Bangkok’s population has so far received both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, according to government data.
At the start of the summer, the Southeast Asian country had planned to be able to immunize 50 million of its inhabitants with at least their first COVID-19 vaccine by the beginning of October. Yet while serving as the production hub for the AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand has struggled to make progress in terms of rolling out its own vaccine. At this point, less than 23% of the country’s 72 million people are fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
On July 1, the Thai resort island of Phuket began granting non-quarantine entry to fully vaccinated travelers from pre-approved countries (including the United States) in a sort of pilot tourism reactivation program. To allow the reopening, 70 percent of the local population had to have been fully immunized by the launch date.
On July 15, this so-called “sandbox” program was quietly extended to Koh Samui, where vaccinated foreign visitors must stay at an approved hotel on the island before being allowed to vacate their accommodation on the fourth day. After their first week, tourists are also allowed to venture to the nearby islands of Koh Tao or Koh Phangan.
The aim is to replicate these strategic reopenings in other key locations to jumpstart Thailand’s crucial tourism sector towards overseas travel. In pre-pandemic 2019, Thailand saw more than a fifth of its gross domestic product supplied by the sector, with 40 million arrivals recorded that year. This year, it aims to attract just one million international visitors.